Niagara Falls delays funding the Wallenda stunt

7. It helps to cheer on a 'daredevil' when he seems like one of us -- down to earth, approachable, a working family man with faith in a higher power. Photo: Jim Diavastes

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – Almost five years ago, famed daredevil Nik Wallenda made a historic trip over Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

To commemorate the five-year anniversary of his stunt, Wallenda’s wife Erendira Wallenda will travel over the Falls as well, dangling from a helicopter by her teeth.

The Niagara County Legislature took up a last-minute resolution Tuesday night to set aside $35,000 for the helicopter stunt. The resolution passed 14-0.

Majority Leader Randy R. Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, who helped to write the resolution, said that Wallenda’s 2012 stunt generated an estimated $21.5 million economic impact, with $3.3 million in direct revenues to the city of Niagara Falls.

“Wallenda’s 2012 walk captured a billion people around the world’s imagination,” Bradt said. “Plus, our tourism industry received a massive shot in the arm, with hotel bookings elevated for weeks after-we want to recapture that energy for our local economy.”

The $35,000 to fund the stunt will come from from Bridge Commission funds via the existing community beautification account. The funding is contingent upon a matching amount from the city of Niagara Falls.

Friday the City of Niagara Falls met to pass a resolution to match the legislature by funding the stunt for $35,000.

The resolution did not pass because not all council members were informed about the resolution.

“I had no prior knowledge and I do not know what the money is going for, how am I possibly going to vote on something like that, $35,000 is not a lot of money, but as an elected official I can’t just say here’s $35,000. I need to know why and what we’re spending that money on,” said Niagara Falls councilman Kenny Tompkins.

Tompkins suspects the money will come out of the tourism fund, but he’s concerned if the city can even pay for the attraction with the possibility of the city losing $16 million in casino revenue.

“Do you believe this is a good expenditure of this much money at this point in time with the possible loss of casino dollars for quite a few years,” said Tompkins.

Tompkins says he’s not against the Wallenda stunt, he thinks it will generate money for the economy, but for now, the funding has been put on hold.

Erendira (nee Vasquez) Wallenda is a trapeze artist who comes from generations of circus performers. Her parents, known as the “Flying Vasquez” performed with Wallenda’s family, The Flying Wallendas.

The Wallendas have been married since 1999.

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